Yuko Kikuchi, PhD
TrAIN Core Member and Reader
Department of Media and Cultural Studies
Birkbeck, University of London
Malet Street, Bloomsbury
London WC1E 7HX
I was born in Tokyo and educated in Japan, the USA and UK. After completing a BA in English and American literature and an MA in American Studies, I worked at the School of East Asian Studies, University of Sheffield. I joined the UAL in 1994 and I am currently teaching an MA course, supervising research students and conducting research as a core member of TrAIN.
My research interest lies in cross-cultural and transnational issues in relation to non-western modernities in art/design. My PhD study on the Japanese folkcrafts (Mingei) movement opened my eyes not only to the complexity of modernity and national identity in Japan, but also to multiple modernities and inter-regional relations in East Asia. Subsequently, it led to a project on Taiwanese visual culture during Japanese colonisation and modern design development in East Asia.
My current research interest is on modernities in art and design in East Asia. The postcolonial cultural debate has shifted from the binary relations of West over East, to inter-relations between East and West, followed by, more recently, East within East and the transnational.
Accordingly, my interest has also shifted from Japanese modernity in relation to Euro-american modernity (such as my study on Mingei) to multilateral cultural analysis on East Asian modernities in relation to Euro-american modernity and Japanese modernity (as exemplified by my study on colonial modernity in Taiwanese visual culture, and current research). East Asia has been a historically and geoculturally shared area, but due to the political disruption and fragmentation brought about by Euro-american and Japanese colonisation, followed by civil wars and finally the Cold War, cross-regional studies in art and design in the area have not been undertaken.
I am currently leading a new international joint project ‘Oriental’ Modernity: Modern Design Development in East Asia, 1920-1990’ to investigate regional and inter-regional development of modern design in Japan, Korea, China/Taiwan/Hong Kong. Together with local experts in East Asia, this project aims to create a multilateral critical framework for identifying regional differences between East Asian modernities in a shared and refracted Euro-American modernity.
I’m also involved in the AHRC funded project ‘The Forgotten Japonisme: The Taste for Japanese Art in Britain and the USA, 1920s-1950s’. In this project, I am investigating 1950-60s American Japonisme through American designer Russel Wright’s intervention in Asia during the Cold War period. In each of these, my research is primarily in the area of craft/product design.
- Editor, 'Refracted Modernity:Visual Culture and Identity in Colonial Taiwan', Honolulu: Hawai'i University Press (2007)
- Kikuchi, Yuko 2004. 'Japanese Modernisation and Mingei Theory: Cultural Nationalism and Oriental Orientalism', London: Routledge/Curzon.
- Kikuchi, Yuko and Watanabe, Toshio 1997. 'Ruskin in Japan 1890-1940: Nature for Art, Art for Life', Tokyo: Cogito. (Winner of 1998 The Japan Festival Prize and 1999 The Gesner Golden Award)
Book chapters and Journal articles
- ‘Russel Wright and Japan: Bridging Japonisme and Good Design through Craft Design’, Journal of Modern Craft, 1-3: 357-382, 2008.
- ‘Yanagi Sōetsu and Korean crafts within the Mingei movement’, in J.E. Hoare and Susan Pares eds., ‘Korea: The Past and the Present: Selected Papers from the British Association for Korean Studies BAKS Papers series, 1991–2004’, Folkestone, Kent: Global Oriental, 2008.
- ‘From Representation to Subjectivity: Taiwanese ‘Vernacular’ Crafts’, in The Proceedings of the Papers at ‘International Conference on History and Culture of Taiwan’, 2006.
- 'Japan and the Mingei movement' in Karen Livingstone and Linda Parry eds., 'International Arts and Crafts', London: V&A Publications, 2005
- ‘Yanagi Sōetsu et l’artisanat traditionnel japonais’, Dossier de l’Art, 118: 62-71, 2005.
- 'The British Discovery of Japanese Art', (co-author with Toshio Watanabe), in Gordon Daniels and Chushichi Tsuzuki eds, 'The History of Anglo-Japanese Relations 1600-2000', vol. 5, Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press (Japanese version) and Palgrave (English version), 2002.
Conference Papers and Invited Lectures (last five years)
- ‘Trans/National Legacy of the Mingei Movement’, invited lecture at the Nissan Institute in Japanese Studies, St. Anthony’s College, Oxford University, 2009.
- ‘Russel Wright and “Asian Modern”’ at the conference of the Society for the Study of Japonisme in Tokyo, 2009.
- ‘Refracted Colonial Modernity: ‘Vernacularism’ in Modern Taiwanese Crafts’, at Taiwan Studies Symposium ‘Culture and the State-Identity, Culture and Power in Taiwan’ at School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 2008.
- ‘The “Japaneseness” of the “Japanese Modern” design in transnational design visual culture’ at the 12th European Association for Japanese Studies Conference at Salento University in Lecce, 2008
- ‘Decentring the master narrative of art and creating narratives of craft and craft history within design history’ at the International Committee of Design History and Studies (ICDHS) 6th Conference in Osaka, 2008.
- 'Bamboo Nationalism: The Complicity of Orientalism and Neo-Nationalism in Modern Japanese/Taiwanese Crafts', School of Languages, Linguistics & Culture, Birkbeck College, University of London, 2007.
- Organised a panel ‘Cultural Production or Culture Politics?’ with Dr Wessie Ling, presenting a paper ‘Russel Wright’s Asian Projects and the Cross-cultural Fertilisation of Post-War National and International Design’ at Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Conference, organised by Shanghai University, 2007.
- ‘From Representation to Subjectivity: Taiwanese ‘Vernacular’ Crafts’, a guest speaker for the International Conference on History and Culture of Taiwan organised by the National Culture Association and the Taiwan Historical Association, 2006.
- ‘Russel Wright’s Asian Project and Japanese Post-War Design’ at the International Committee of Design History and Studies (ICDHS) 5th Conference jointly organised by University of Art and Design Helsinki with Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallinn, 2006.
- ‘Russel Wright’s Asian Papers and Japanese Post-War Design’ at the Design History Society’s annual conference organised by the Delft University of Technology, 2006
- ‘The Mingei Movement in the Transnational Context’ at ‘Mingei: Craft in 20th-century Japan and UK’ symposium at the British Museum, jointly organised by the Embassy of Japan, the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, TrAIN-University of the Arts London and the British Museum, 2006.
- ‘“Bamboo Nationalism” The Complicity of Orientalism and Neo-traditionalism’, invited lecture at Department of Art and Design, De Montfort University, 2006.
- ‘The Mingei Movement in the Transnational Context’, invited lecture at the University of Tsukuba, Japan, 2006.
- ‘Cultural Hybridity: Refracted Colonial Modernity in Taiwanese Art’, Birkbeck College, University of London, 2005.
- ‘Consuming Nationalism: Patriotic Objects of Desire during the Russo-Japanese War’ invited speaker at ‘Re-imagining Culture in the Russo-Japanese War’ symposium organised by Birkbeck College, University of London, 2004.
- ‘Bamboo Nationalism: The Complicity of Orientalism and Neo-nationalism in Modern Japanese/Taiwanese Crafts’ at ‘Nation, Identity and Modernity: Visual Culture of India, Japan and Mexico 1860s-1940s’ Conference at the Victoria & Albert Museum, organised by Camberwell College of Arts and Chelsea College of Art and Design, 2004.
- ‘Consuming Nationalism: Patriotic Objects of Desire during the Russo-Japanese War’ at Design History Society’s annual conference: ‘Politics of Design’ organised by University of Ulster, Belfast, 2004.
- ‘Re-evaluation of Mingei Theory in the Cross-Cultural Context’, a guest speaker at ‘Japanese Ceramics: Cultural Roots and Contemporary Expressions Symposium’ at Harvard University, 2004.
- ‘Okamoto Tarō’s Mexico and Jōmon: Alternative Counterpoint Modernity in Post-War Japanese Avant-garde and National Art Discourse’ at the 4th International Conference on Design History and Design Studies: ‘Coincidence & Co-incidence’ organised by Universidad de Guadalajara, Mexico, 2004.
- 'International Arts and Crafts' (Japan Section) at the Victoria and Albert Museum; Indianapolis Museum of Art; and Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 2005/06.
- 'Ruskin in Japan 1890-1940: Nature for Art, Art for Life' at Koriyama City Museum of Art; The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura; and The Ruskin Gallery, Sheffield, 1997.